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Debut Picture Book Author, Judith Snyder

Well, it has happened again! Another of my critique buddies has published her first children’s picture book. Amazon describes Judith Snyder’s What Do You See? (Odyssey Books) this way:

“This title is full of imaginative approaches to artwork, and perfect for curious children, who are eager to combine shapes and sizes in art. There is no end to the creativity this book facilitates, as youngsters open their eyes and the windows of their own creativity. It is a perfect way for adults and youngsters to see the world in a whole new way.”

Judith has joined us today to talk about her book. Thanks for stopping by, Judith. Let’s start at the beginning.

How did you get your idea for this book?

When I first started teaching, back in the golden years when creative thinking took precedence over skill and drill worksheets, I participated in classes that encouraged teachers to get students to stretch their imaginations. That was when I started using simple line drawings to stimulate creative thinking. I started this activity with fifth graders and when I changed grade levels, I discovered that first and second graders could do these activities as well. So that was the initial idea that followed me into all my classrooms. Many years later on a car trip, I used this activity to entertain my grandson. Everyone in the car had fun brainstorming ideas for different shapes. I saved the doodles and the ideas, and combined them with rhyming couplets and voila—What Do You See?

[It pays to save those scraps of ideas!]

How did you find your editor, or how did she find you?

At my second SCBWI conference in 2006, I had the good fortune to be with a friend who won the chance to sit next to one of the guest editors at lunch. So, along with nine other conference goers, we had a wonderful chat with editor/publisher, Barbara Cilette of Odyssey Books. We all talked about the normal publishing questions, but what I remember most is discussing educational philosophy and how books should stimulate creativity and curiosity. This discussion was a great segue into my What Do You See? book proposal that I had been subbing with no success, so I asked Barbara about the best way to get my vision across to an editor. As a result, I mailed her the manuscript. I remember the wait felt like forever. When Barbara responded initially, it was a “Yes, I like your idea very much, but I can’t promise you anything just yet.”

So I waited a little longer…and I was thrilled when she invited me to lunch to discuss this manuscript and several others she was interested in. (The time from initial query to final book was about three years, which I understand now is common.) And then my books arrived at my door and I discovered it was worth the wait. They are beautiful.

[Amazon tells me my copy is on its way to Missouri. I can’t wait to read it!]

It sounds like you thought long and hard about how to make your proposal different from what was already on the market. Tell us about that.

This is a very important piece in getting noticed, and something that I consider as I develop my projects. My first magazine piece was an article and a folktale I sent out as a package, with the suggestion that they could be used together or individually. The article described how to tell a story and used examples from the folktale. It worked. They bought both.

With my Jump Start Your Library activity books, I stressed a hands-on approach, as opposed to simple worksheets, and proposed that the activities be pre-made to save librarians work.

Suggesting ideas outside-the-box can start the editor thinking, too. The concept for What Do You See? is so different from most other things on the market right now, that it was very difficult to market. Luckily, I found an editor with a vision and understanding of the creative process. This book goes far beyond a simple shape book to develop flexible and creative thinking. Preschoolers might enjoy it by finding shapes, but older students and adults are challenged with more abstract thinking.

Now that your book is out, how do you intend to promote it?

Thank goodness I have critique groups and Verla Kay’s message board. I’ve received support to motivate me into cyberspace (my website) and ideas to get me out into the other real world. Since I am a retired school librarian, I still have a few contacts in several metro area school districts to do some author presentations. I’m getting a slow start, but I wanted to make sure I would have my books before I did any presentations. I also think I’m very lucky to be a part of Odyssey Books first book launch. Though Barbara Ciletti has been in the publishing business for a long time, Odyssey Books is her very own imprint. And not only is she well versed in marketing strategies, she is as motivated as I am to get these books into the hands of children. We both are working hard for success.

Also, I am holding a contest on my website, judithsnyderwrites.com. You can win my book by answering a creative thinking question. I’ll put all the responders’ names into a hat and draw a winner. Stop by and check it out. The contest runs through Nov. 30, 2009.

What’s next for you?

I love picture books and that’s what I enjoy writing because that’s what I know best. But there is something niggling at me to take a risk and try a different kind of writing. So I’m starting to learn about writing chapter books and a middle grade realistic fantasy novel. I’ve had a few false starts, but I’m gearing up again.

Finally, what’s the best advice you’ve been given about writing?

I’ve received lots of great insights into the writing process from my critique groups and at conferences. But I have to go back to the very beginning of my journey, when I was just getting my feet wet and stretching my writing wings. Because I was a school librarian, I had opportunities to invite authors to my school and spend time with them at lunch and throughout the day. I remember asking the authors, Janet Stevens and Justin Mattott, how to get started on the “publishing a picture book” journey. Both replied with similar answers. Join SCBWI, go to conferences, get into a critique group, and write what you know. I followed their advice and it worked. And that’s the advice I would give to any other novice writer—that, and grow a thick skin because you’ll get a lot of rejections before you get that wonderful “YES!”

Thanks for your time, Judith. I wish you all the best with What Do You See?

8 Responses to “Debut Picture Book Author, Judith Snyder”

  1. Deb says:

    Wonderful interview, Judith and Jody. Can't wait to read your book and see it's available from Chapters Online, when I go in to work tomorrow will see if we can get some into the store. What great Christmas gift this would make…spend the day stretching the imagination with mom, dad, grandma, grandpa. A great classroom book to gift a teacher, as well!

  2. jodyjs says:

    Thanks, Deb! This is definitely worth gift-giving! What a great idea.

  3. Great interview, ladies!

  4. jodyjs says:

    Thanks, Rachel!

  5. A great interview with an author of a fun new picture book. Thanks for posting. I especially love the advice about growing a thick skin. So true!

  6. jodyjs says:

    Thanks, Alison.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful to have a glimpse inside the creative process as it relates to . . . the creative process. Thank you for highlighting this interesting book. I've already got my copy and I love it. Now i get to buy one for my school library and local library. Goodie!


  8. jodyjs says:

    Great idea, Carolyn. Spread the creativity!

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